FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Annette Lamoreaux and Connecticut Civil

Liberties Union Foundation,

 
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-068

Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety,

 
  Respondent  October 13, 2004
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 29, 2004, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. At the request of the original complainants, the case caption shown above has been amended and restated to substitute Annette Lamoreaux as the individual complainant.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1.  The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1)(A), G.S.

 

2.  By letter dated October 30, 2003, complainants made a detailed, thirteen part records request, asking to inspect or copy substantially all of respondent’s records concerning his participation in the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, which is also known as MATRIX (the “requested records”).  

 

3.  Following an acknowledgement letter dated November 4, 2003, the respondent, by letter dated January 20, 2004, provided several introductory records concerning MATRIX, together with the requested list of the individuals authorized to access MATRIX. However, the respondent also stated that records did not exist relating to certain parts of the complainants’ request and declined to release various other requested records, claiming exemptions pursuant to 1-210(b)(3), 1-210(b)(5), and 1-210(b)(20), G.S.

 

4.  By letter dated February 11, 2004 and filed with the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission”) on February 13, 2004, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent’s failure to provide the requested records violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).

 

5.  By letter dated June 10, 2004, the respondent provided eight additional records to the complainants, plus a web site address for a newsletter.

 

 6.  At an early point during the June 29, 2004 hearing, the respondent further furnished to the complainants a substantially redacted copy of the MATRIX Tracking Log, detailing some aspects of the respondent’s use of MATRIX, including the frequency of use.

 

7.  At the hearing, the complainants, also in a constructive vein, stated that certain redactions of the MATRIX Tracking Log would not be contested.  Accordingly, only the task descriptions in the MATRIX Tracking Log remained at issue, and the complainants volunteered that certain redactions in the task descriptions also would not be contested. These non-contested redactions were: names, telephone numbers, dates of birth, street addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, proper business names, and social security numbers.

 

8.  As a result of the respondent’s increasingly forthcoming disclosures, together with the complainants’ narrowing of their records request, the June 29, 2004 hearing was able to focus on only three remaining contested records or portions thereof: a) the Factual Analysis Criminal Threat Solution (“FACTS”) User Manual; b) the FACTS Training Guide; and c) redactions in the task descriptions in the MATRIX Tracking Log other than the non-contested items listed in paragraph 7, above.

 

9.  It is found that the respondent has entered into two relevant agreements, an agency security agreement with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is the lead state agency in the MATRIX consortium, and another with the Institute of Governmental Research. The Institute, in turn, contracts with Seisint, Inc., a private corporation, which at present administers the MATRIX computer system. An RFP has recently been issued to determine the future administrator of MATRIX. FACTS is a component of MATRIX.  

 

10.  Respondent contends that the FACTS User Manual and the FACTS Training Guide contain trade secrets, which are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(5), G.S. At the hearing, respondent presented a letter from Seisint, Inc., indicating that it concurs in this contention. In response, the complainants maintain that the respondent does not have legal standing to assert the trade secret exemption on behalf of Seisint, Inc., and in any case, the information with “economic value” to Seisint, Inc. is the database, not the FACTS User Manual and the FACTS Training Guide.  

 

11.  As a result of an informal conference between the parties and the hearing officer, held with the agreement of the parties at an intermission of the hearing, the respondent notified Seisint, Inc., by certified letter dated July 1, 2004, that it would be allowed to exercise its right to seek intervenor or party status until August 1, 2004. However, Seisint, Inc. did not file any such petition with the Commission in response to this notification.

 

12.  At the hearing, the respondent submitted the FACTS User Manual and the FACTS Training Guide to the Commission for in camera inspection, which has been performed. Without otherwise disclosing the contents of these records, it may be stated that: a) Seisint, Inc. has asserted a proprietary limitation on the use of the records on every page of the FACTS User Manual and the FACTS Training Guide; and b) as one would expect of a user manual and a training guide, these records disclose features and capabilities of MATRIX. However, the Commission does not have possession of and has not inspected the unredacted MATRIX Tracking Log, which by reasonable inference could include highly sensitive information concerning suspected terrorists.

 

13.  At the hearing, the complainants also contended that MATRIX is a massive, powerful database, with “billions of records” detailing many aspects of the lives of individual citizens and residents of the United States. The respondent countered with a reasonably detailed description of MATRIX, including certain specific information in response to complainants’ queries. The respondent willingly disclosed that MATRIX has been budgeted by the State of Connecticut alone at $8,000,000 and expends approximately $600,000 per calendar quarter.

 

14.  It is found that, pursuant to the agency security agreement, which has been provided to the complainants, every user of the system signs a personal commitment not to disclose information generated by MATRIX. Only twenty-two to twenty-four individuals are licensed to use MATRIX in Connecticut, a relatively small number that may provide some protection against potential abuse. Those individuals work at the Central Criminal Intelligence Unit, which is a physically secure unit. Users must enter their unique password and secure token into a computer in order to access the database. Any dissemination of MATRIX information to third parties must be logged.

 

 15.  It is also found that 70 to 75% of the use of MATRIX is to locate fugitives, to find an address where a person can be arrested. As a result, a given task description in the MATRIX Tracking Log may contain very specific details about a crime, the names of witnesses, and on occasion, the names of juveniles.

 

16.  Finally with reference to voluntary disclosures, on August 3, 2004, following the hearing, the respondent provided the complainants with a revised redacted copy of the MATRIX Tracking Log, disclosing the entire task description for nearly all the entries in the MATRIX Tracking Log. Because this additional disclosure took place after the hearing, the Commission cannot be certain whether it accomplished the result that presumably was intended of removing the MATRIX Tracking Log as a contested item in this case.

 

17.  It is concluded that the respondent, as the custodian of the FACTS User Manual and the FACTS Training Guide, does have legal standing to assert the trade secret exemption, particularly when, as here, the owner of the secret: a) has stated in writing to the respondent that it concurs in the assertion; and b) has been given notice of its right to participate in the relevant contested case. See Chairman, Board of Education of the Town of Darien v. FOIC, 60 Conn. App. 584 (2000).

 

18.  It is concluded, based upon the in camera review and the upcoming RFP referenced at paragraph 9 above, that the FACTS User Manual and the FACTS Training Guide do contain “information…programs…methods, techniques, [and] processes…that derive independent economic value…from not being generally known…”, as those terms are used in 1-210(b)(5), G.S. It is also concluded, based upon the findings at paragraphs 12 and 14 above, that these methods “are the subject of efforts…to maintain secrecy”, as that term is used in 1-210(b)(5), G.S. Accordingly, the FACTS User Manual and the FACTS Training Guide are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(5), G.S.

 

 19. It is concluded that, in view of the extreme sensitivity of MATRIX, the respondent’s deliberate approach to disclosure of the requested records did not violate the FOIA’s standards of promptness. Indeed, the respondent has exerted considerable effort in a spirit of openness, particularly in individually reviewing the task description for each entry in the MATRIX Tracking Log (176 pages, typically with about seven entries and task descriptions per page).

 

 20.   It is therefore concluded that the Commission does not have any evidence of a violation of 1-210(a), G.S., or any other provision of the FOIA. Indeed, viewed from the opposite direction, the complainants have caused a considerable amount of information to become publicly available concerning Connecticut’s use of state of the art computer technology for law enforcement and protection against terrorism.

 

            The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

1.      The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

2.      The respondent is encouraged, from time to time, to continue his constructive

 dialogue with the complainants.

 

3.  Both the complainants and the respondent have approached this docket with a sober sense of responsibility for the large interests that are implicated, including security against terrorism and the protection of constitutional rights. All parties are commended for reaffirming literally that we have no “secret police”. Both the complainants and the respondent should continue to seek an appropriate balance between open, accountable government and the current imperatives of security.

           

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of October 13, 2004.

 

________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission


PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

 

Annette Lamoreaux and Connecticut Civil

Liberties Union Foundation

c/o Daniel Klau, Esq.

Pepe and Hazard

One Goodwin Square

Hartford, CT 06103

 

                    Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety

c/o Stephen R. Sarnoski, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-068FD/paj/10/18/2004